1 John 1:8–10 (NKJV)
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue the world from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son, whom we now know as Jesus of Nazareth, shall return in glory to vindicate all who have trusted in Him. As the beginning of a new year in the church calendar, there are a number of changes that occur in our service of worship. We have already recited a different call to worship and greeting. Soon we shall recite a different corporate confession and creed.
But while we change some of the details of our worship, we retain the central components or basic structure of our worship. And one of those central components is the confession of our sins. John reminds us that if we say we have no sin, we both deceive ourselves and make God a liar. If we confess our sins, however, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Thus, while the specific wording of our corporate confession changes depending on the season of the year, the fact of our confession does not. As John implies, the closer we get to God and the more we meditate on His word, His truth, the better we will get at seeing and confessing our sin.
One of the resources that God in His kindness has given to us that we might learn how better to confess our sins are the penitential psalms. These are psalms in the psalter that model faithful confession – psalms like numbers 5, 6, 13, 22, 32, 38, 40, 42, 51, 56, 63, 80, 130, 137 and others. Alongside these psalms, the Cantus Christi contains hymns that likewise share this penitential flavor.
Historically our congregation has sung many of these psalms and hymns in our service of worship. However, because we haven’t had a slot to sing them during the confession of sins, we have included them elsewhere in our service. This has resulted in the odd phenomenon of confessing our sins, hearing God graciously pronounce our forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then confessing our sins again later in the service. To avoid that odd phenomenon, our elders have decided to adjust the order of our songs and to begin including a penitential psalm or hymn as part of our confession.
So this morning as we enter the presence of the Lord and are reminded of our calling to confess our sins to the Lord, let us turn to Psalm 130 and cry out to the Lord for His forgiving grace.